Joan Fontaine was a British-American actress who won an Academy Award for “Rebecca” and “Suspicion.” Midway through the 1930s, she began her theatrical career. Shortly after, she made the leap into film, becoming one of the 1940s’ biggest stars. She was born in Japan to British parents, and after her parents’ divorce, she relocated to California with her mother. Following in the footsteps of her older sister Olivia de Havilland, who later rose to fame in Hollywood, she entered the performing world after completing her studies. In 1935, Joan decided to move into the movie industry after beginning her performing career on the stage. She began by landing little parts in movies, but over time she was successful in landing larger roles. She experienced a turn of events when she met producer David O. Selznick by accident and was given the opportunity to play Rebecca in the upcoming psychological thriller-mystery movie. She gained notoriety in American cinema as a result of the film’s overwhelming success, and she later rose to fame as one of the most well-known actors of her time. She became the only actor to ever win an Academy Award in a Hitchcock-directed movie when she won the award for best actress in Hitchcock’s “Suspicion.” Hollywood was well aware of the ongoing sibling rivalry between Fontaine and her equally famous sister Olivia.
Early Childhood & Life
In Tokyo, Japan, on October 22, 1917, she was given the name Joan de Havilland. Prior to becoming a patent lawyer, her father, Walter Augustus de Havilland, taught English at the Imperial University of Tokyo. Lilian Augusta, her mother, had previously worked as a theatrical actress before she and her husband moved to Tokyo. She only had one older sister, Olivia, and from the start, they struggled to get along.
The daughters’ parents divorced when they were little. Because Joan was a sickly child, her mother and daughters emigrated to America on the recommendation of medical professionals. After the relocation, Joan’s health significantly improved and she started attending Los Gatos High School.
She moved to Japan when she was 16 years old, enrolling in the Tokyo School for Foreign Children, where she eventually graduated in 1935. Then she went back to the US.
The career of Joan Fontaine
Young Joan followed in the footsteps of her older sister, who had already started her acting career at this point. She made her film debut the same year that she made her stage debut in the West Coast version of “Call It a Day.”
With the character name “Joan Burfield,” she made her motion picture debut in 1935’s “No More Ladies.” She quickly adopted her stepfather’s last name and changed her screen identity to “Joan Fontaine.”
She primarily played supporting roles in her early years of performing. After appearing in a few minor roles in approximately a dozen movies, she met director David O. Selznick by accident at a dinner party, and as a result, she was cast in the impending thriller “Rebecca.”
She gained notoriety in Hollywood thanks to her portrayal as the second Mrs. de Winter in “Rebecca,” British filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock’s American debut. The movie received raving reviews after its debut, and Fontaine was nominated for an Academy Award.
She rose to fame in 1941 thanks to her Academy Award-winning performance as Lina McLaidlaw in another Hitchcock thriller, “Suspicion.” Through the 1940s, she remained one of the best actresses.
In romantic comedies like “The Constant Nymph” (1943), “Jane Eyre” (1943), “Frenchman’s Creek” (1944), “The Affairs of Susan” (1945), “Ivy” (1947), and “Letter from an Unknown Woman,” she played emotional parts (1948). Additionally, throughout these years, Fontaine’s professional rivalry with her sister Olivia, another accomplished actress, grew.
She continued to perform throughout the 1950s, despite a little decline in her film career popularity. She resumed acting in the theater during this time and appeared on television sometimes. Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (1956), Until They Sail (1957), and A Certain Smile (1958) are some of her best movies from this time period.
In the final years of her career, she was increasingly involved with television, even though she continued to make rare film appearances. She was nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest/Cameo Appearance in a Daytime Drama Series in 1980 for her role as Paige Williams in the television series “Ryan’s Hope.”
Bigger Works of Joan Fontaine
Both viewers and critics enjoyed Joan Fontaine’s portrayal of the young second Mrs. de Winter in the thriller Rebecca, the wife of a man who is still fixated on his deceased first wife. For her performance, she received an Academy Award nomination.
She co-starred with Cary Grant in the Hitchcock thriller “Suspicion” as Lina McLaidlaw Aysgarth. She was honored with the Academy Award for Best Actress for her depiction of a suspicious woman who thinks her husband is plotting her murder.
Recognition & Achievements
For her work in “Suspicion,” Joan Fontaine won the Academy Award for Best Actress (1941). For the same movie, she was also given the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress.
Fontaine has a star at 1645 Vine Street on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in recognition of her work in the film business.
Personal Legacy & Life
Four marriages totaling four kids for Joan Fontaine all ended in divorce. From 1939 to 1945, she was married to actor Brian Aherne.
She had a daughter from her second marriage to actor/producer William Dozier in 1946. In 1951, the couple got a divorce.
In 1952, she married writer and producer Collier Young for the third time. In 1961, this also resulted in divorce.
1964 through 1969 saw her fourth marriage to Alfred Wright Jr.
She had a long life and passed away on December 15, 2013, at the age of 96, from natural causes.
Joan Fontaine’s Net Worth
The British-American actress Joan Fontaine had a $40 million fortune. In October 1917, Joan Fontaine was born in Tokyo, Japan, and she passed away in December 2013. RKO offered her a contract after she made her theatrical debut in a 1935 production of Call It a Day.
Only this legendary Hollywood actress and her equally famous sister have received Academy Awards for lead acting.